A Guest Argument (from a Comment) for the Affordability of Flipped Courses

Some thoughts by Dr. Robert Talbert, who wrote the book Flipped learning, on the true costs of blended teaching.

September 11, 2017

Am I wrong in my thinking that effective blended course designs require significant investments in resources?

In order to help bring this question to our IHE community, and perhaps expose my own blindspots, I’d like to highlight a comment that Dr. Robert Talbert made in my post Flipped Courses and Costs.

Our IHE community has been engaged in an intense debate about comments. Dr. Talbert’s comment demonstrates to me why comments are an essential part of what makes IHE so great.

Dr. Talbert, an Associate Professor in the Mathematics Department at Grand Valley State University in Allendale Michigan, literally wrote the book on flipped learning.  The book is called Flipped Learning: A Guide for Higher Education Faculty

We should probably listen to what he has to say.

Here are Dr. Talbert’s comments in full:

There are a lot of assumptions going on in this article about how flipped learning works that simply don't generalize. This in particular stands out: "All this work to design and run a high-quality flipped course is expensive. It requires the collaboration of a team faculty and non-faculty educators to create, and then the full time and attention of the professor to interact with and mentor students during the face-to-face course interactions."

The fact is, creating a quality flipped learning environment doesn't *require* any more expense than a well-designed (important qualifier here) lecture course does. You can do it on a shoestring budget to great effect if that's what you want. All it takes is designing activities and materials to support student work in their individual pre-class spaces (e.g., structured activities to guide their work in reading or in watching videos) and in their group in-class spaces (e.g., good group activities that drive higher learning tasks). This doesn't have to be fancy. In fact I've done flipped learning courses for years that don't involve any such fanciness (because I, like a lot of profs, don't have the time or money for that) and have met many more faculty who make it work for them.

You don't even really have to have videos at all to have a quality flipped learning environment. I wrote about that here: http://rtalbert.org/flipped...

But even if you are a Texas A&M and have money to spend on this, remember that traditional lecture courses are expensive too, in ways that are worse for students and widen the inequities that are wondered about above. The 2014 study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, for example, showed that the failure rate for students in traditional lecture courses in the STEM disciplines was 55% higher in their population than that for students in active learning courses, translating into an increase $3,500,000 in tuition spent on repeating failed courses just for that population alone. If you think active learning is expensive, in other words, try not using active learning.

What do you think?

I’m skeptical that effective flipping is not resource intensive. We all know that the worst courses are those that are poorly flipped - that even an okay lecture is infinitely better than a poorly executed flipped class.  I also worry about requiring that faculty gain skills in both their subject (domain expertise) and instructional design.

Still, Dr. Talbert’s comments have made me re-think some of my assumptions. At the very least, I want to read his book!

What is your experience with blended learning, classroom flipping, and resources?


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